Convention: Federalists join forces

19th April, 2002



Leaked documents expose EU power (and water) grab






The World Development Movement (WDM) has condemned the EU as "preparing to trample all over sustainable development objectives in the naked pursuit of the interests of European multinational service corporations", after drafts of the EU's objectives for World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on trade in services were revealed on the internet earlier this week.



The leaked documents reveal the EU's draft plans for opening up essential service sectors in twenty-nine countries, including India, Canada, Egypt, Mexico and the USA, under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), currently being negotiated at the WTO in Geneva.



WDM's GATS campaigner Clare Joy said: "These documents confirm our worst fears about GATS and demonstrate the extent to which Europe's negotiating priorities reflect the interests of European business alone. They target essential services, such as water distribution where there is no evidence that liberalisation benefits the poor. When highlighting this in the past, WDM was accused of making false claims about the reach of GATS."



Across the board the EU is demanding the opening up of postal services, water supplies, finance and banking, electricity generation and supply, and telecommunications services. The EU is also specifically demanding the elimination of laws allowing developing countries to regulate foreign investment. These include Malaysian laws saying land purchases can't be made for purely speculative purposes and subjecting foreign corporate takeovers to government approval, Egyptian laws which limit the number of hotels and bank branches according to an economic needs test, and rules in Mexico and Chile which restrict foreign ownership of land along coastline.



WDM is calling for a moratorium on the current GATS negotiations until a thorough assessment of the potential impacts has been conducted. As they point out, the leaked documents “blow a great hole”  in the claim that GATS presents no threat to essential services, and that the agreement is flexible and allows governments to retain the right to regulate.







Claire Joy added that “the documents show the EU wants developing government public interest regulations systematically eliminated. Our claims of the dangers of this agreement have been completely vindicated. GATS is not a one-way-street. Other countries, such as the US and Australia are currently discussing what services the EU should offer to open up to the ultra free market disciplines of GATS. The EC in these documents is literally asking for the world - what are we going to have to promise in return?"

 

The leaked EU GATS requests for twenty-nine developed and middle income countries are available on the web at www.gatswatch.org



Rejoice! Bay of Pigs II Plot Thwarted

Even the New York Times has now reported the obvious fact that the Bush junta, fresh from its own illegal seizure of power, was involved in the attempt to remove Venezuela’s democratically elected President, Hugo Chavez, from power. Barely had the unspeakably smug image of Condoleeza Rice left the world’s TV screens than it was replaced by the scenes of the Venezuelan people restoring their power. The plot to impose a dictatorship which would ensure the continued supply of oil to the US had failed.

The sight of members of an illegally-installed junta lecturing Zimbabwe’s government about “free and fair elections” a few weeks ago was sickening enough. Their effrontery in questioning the credentials of a President elected by an overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s people, or of a constitution endorsed by an equally impressive popular vote, was positively surreal.

But then the Bushites hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created to serve the interests of America’s rich, and that Americans are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which is the right to cheap gasoline.

The oil is running out. The Bush gang are the first to realise the full implications of this, and they aim is to get the lot sewn up by any means necessary.

To read more about the failed coup, go to whatreallyhappened narconews and www.stratfor.com

To read about the trained terrorists who carried out the attempted establishment of a US puppet regime, go to this website

A cross-party “intergroup” of members of the Convention on the Future of Europe has been established to promote the idea of a constitution for the European Union. The “European Constitution” intergroup’s stated aim is “to allow all those interested to exchange ideas” and to join efforts in order to “defend the elements of a common vision”. On a practical level, it will seek to persuade the Convention to produce a single draft of a European Constitution, incorporating the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In addition, it believes that all legislation at EU level – even as regards military policy -should be decided by Qualified Majority Voting and co-decision between the Council, which represents the member state governments, and the European Parliament. The Commission would then become the EU’s executive, or “government”, with a President elected by the Parliament. The right of a single member state to veto proposals, where it still exists, would be abolished.

The Federalists’ programme, were it to be implemented, would centralise power, depriving national electorates of any real say in the governance of their own countries. For example, if a “qualified majority” of member states voted to adopt the Euro as the EU’s sole official currency, the British, Swedish and Danish people would lose their right to decide for themselves whether they wished to join the Eurozone.

European Parliament: major debate on GMO legislation

The European Union is currently developing a comprehensive legal framework governing the cultivation and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and Tuesday saw the latest in a series of major debates on the issue. Last year, Parliament and member states agreed a new directive, known as 2001/18, “on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment”. As part of a hard-fought compromise, the European Commission, which has the job of proposing new legislative acts, agreed to bring forward proposals establishing a system of traceability and labelling of GMO products. The system is necessary in order to give consumers the option of shunning GMOs and products made from them. In some cases, the fact that a GMO has been used as a processing aid, or itself processed, means that no difference can be detected in the final product. This does not mean that everyone will be happy to eat or use those GMOs. Many people object to genetic modification for environmental reasons. Others see agricultural biotechnology as a way of reinforcing the control of Transnational Corporations over the food supply, and of the power of the rich “North” over developing countries. EU proposals for comprehensive traceability and labelling of genetically modified crops and resulting food and feed products began their first reading in the European Parliament's environment committee today.

The Parliament’s two “Rapporteurs”, the two MEPs chosen to write the Parliament’s response to the Commission proposals – one on “labelling and traceability” and the other on “food and feed” - have radically different views of the issue.

Greek conservative Antonios Trakatellis is concerned to avoid a trade war with the US, which sees no justification for treating GMOs any differently to any other foods  or food ingredients. For this and other reasons, he wants to get rid entirely of a central plank of the Commission’s proposal, which is to establish a chain of paperwork enabling a GMO to be traced from field to plate. Mr Trakatellis also cited the cost to companies. Speaking in his support, British Labour MEP David Bowe insisted that the proposed system was unworkable, and argued instead that producers who could guarantee the absence of GMOs display a “GMO-free” label.

The other Rapporteur, however, Austrian social democrat Karin Scheele, is right behind the Commission’s proposals, but wants to see them strengthened. Products from livestock fed on modified feed are not included, but Ms Scheele intends to propose an amendment adding them. She is willing to accept that the accidental presence of GMOs in non-GM shipments may sometimes be unavoidable, but believes the Commission’s suggested threshold, of 1%, is too high. Instead she proposes 0.5%, but both the Commission and Scheele admit that their figures are plucked out of the air. Moreover, no “adventitious contamination” should be tolerated unless the offending GMO is at least approved for human consumption within the EU.

The two proposals, as with 2001/18, are attempts to find a compromise which would allow GMOs to be grown and sold in the EU. Currently, various GMOs are authorised for sale in the Union, and labelling regulations are unclear and patchy. No licences for new plantings have been granted for four years, and the Commission is warning that this unofficial moratorium will cause problems with trading partners. The result of the standoff is contradictory. The EU will certainly end up with the strongest regulatory regime in the world, at least of any major country or bloc, but this is not seen as good news by opponents of agricultural biotechnology, who argue that genetic modification should be confined to closed environments and that the precautionary principle, to which the EU is officially committed, would indicate that commercial growing and large-scale experiments, at the very least, should be abandoned. The Green and United Left Groups in the European Parliament, which are following the proposals closely and which are opposed to GMO cultivation, are thus faced with a dilemma. “The more concessions we win,” said a spokesperson for the United Left Group’s environment team, “the more likely it is that public hostility will wane. On the other hand, if we don’t go for maximum safeguards, we could well end up with a system that exposes people and the environment to an even higher level of risks, and makes it impossible for consumers to boycott these products.”

  Italy: General Strike halts country

Italy ground to a halt on Monday as millions of workers downed tools in protest against the Berlusconi regime’s proposals for so-called “labour reforms”. Workers and sympathisers also took part in mass demonstrations, hammering home the point that Italy’s working men and women would not be forced to pay for the corrupt mismanagement of the economy presided over by successive governments, or for the country’s entry into the euro. Only emergency services were operating as the strike call won an estimated 80-90% support. As thousands took to the streets of every major city and many smaller towns, it became clear that the immediate issue of defending workers’ job security and working conditions was not the only concern. Once again, they want Berlusconi out, along with his slavishly pro-Bush foreign policy, his undermining of the education system, attacks on pensions, control of the media and casual racism.

The highly profitable German private mail corporation Deutsche Post is planning a major expansion once the EU’s plans to “liberalise” postal services have come to fruition.

The Royal Mail reportedly loses over a million and a half pounds per day and plans to cut staffs by 40,000. The French last year lost 100 million euro on their delivery of mail. On the other hand, when you post a letter in either of these countries you can be as sure as is possible that it will arrive at its destination while the lucky recipient is still alive and kicking. The Dutch post office, which is part-privatised,  has deteriorated markedly and visibly concentrates on profitable elite markets while treating other post service users with the kind of contempt at which privatised service providers in general seem to excel.

If the European Commission’s proposals are accepted, member states will have to open all letters and parcels over 100 grams to competition by 2003 and everything over 50 grams by 2006. This will not make public ownership impossible, but it will make it effectively pointless. Subsidising unprofitable services from profitable ones will no longer be available, for example. The result will be that the rich get special treatment while the rest of us get no birthday cards.  

The United States has put three Swedish citizens, of Somalian origin, on the UN list for freezing the funds of terrorist suspects. The three men, Abdirisak, Ahmed Aliyusus and Abdulaziz Ali, are members of Al Barakaat, a network of organisations set up to allow Somali people around the world to send money back to their families and relatives in Somalia. The Swedish government has failed to object to the US action, despite the fact that no evidence has been presented to implicate any of the men in terrorist actions. Following public pressure, the US reluctantly agreed to send evidence to the Swedish security services, who, having examined it, declared it to be worthless.

The campaign to clear the men’s names has been led by the Swedish Vänster (Left) Party, which enjoys the support of 15% of the country’s voters. A spokesperson for the party said that action had been taken against the men, who have lost their right to state benefits, "without a shred of evidence". 

Jan Johansson, a researcher for the party who works at the European Parliament in Brussels, said that the US had claimed that one of the three had been apprehended in the States with suspicious materials, including books containing instructions on bomb-making. In fact, Mr Johansson told Spectre, Swedish official records proved that all three had in Sweden at the time of the alleged detention.

Vänster Euro-MP Marianne Eriksson, said: "These men - and even the partner of one of them have been left without any economic assets. All this has been done without any legal evidence or preliminary investigation. We want to draw attention to their plight and the whole process under which they have been condemned. It shows that the UN framework on terrorism, which has been adopted by all EU member states, can be interpreted very widely."

Ms Eriksson, along with fellow Left MEPs Herman Schmid and Jonas Sjostedt, has donated money to a 'fighting fund' which has been set up to help the men.  Another United Left Group MEP, Erik Meijer of the Dutch Socialist Party, said, “we are looking into the situation in teh Netherlands, where there are numerous people of Somali origin. As we understand it, if the US authorities want an individual or group labelled as “terrorist” then they can simply do it, as can their partners in the so-called “war”. Yet once on the list, you can only be removed by a unanimous vote. In other words, the US can brand someone a terrorist and has a veto over any change to that. We criticise the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy in part because it means that the Netherlands’ foreign policy would be determined by the big EU member states. Now it appears that it will be made by the US!”

Finland: New anti-EU party founded

"Forces for Change in Finland" is the name of a new party formed by a number of small parties and organisations which aim to take their country out of the European Union, of which it has been a member for less than  six years. Acting leader Ilkka Hakalehto emphasises the responsibility EU membership must bear for swingeing cuts in public spending in the run up to accession.  In order to qualify to stand for the elections to the Riksdag, as the Finnish parliament is called, it must gather 5,000 signatures.

Although the new party has stressed the same kind of EU-critical arguments used by left opponents of the Union, there is some doubt as to whether it also contains elements inclined to xenophobia, though overt racists are excluded. Unconvinced, the executive of the Finnish Communist Party, an element in the Left Alliance which is itself a junior partner in the coalition government, voted by 18-9 against joining Forces for Change. One branch, however, in Helsingfors, has opted to join.

Iraq: solidarity group organises visit of 120 Europeans

A group of 120 people from different parts of Europe are visiting Baghdad this week to express their solidarity with the Iraqi people and their opposition to United Nations sanctions and any United States attack. The group, which included MPs, journalists, doctors, students and Gulf war veterans from twenty countries, was organised by the Belgian NGO SOS Iraqi Children.

SOS Iraqi Children spokesman Michel Collon explained that the aim of the trip was “to make public opinion internationally aware of the real situation in Iraq and that there is no reason to make war against Iraq."

Destruction of Iraqi water treatment and sewage plants during the Gulf war and the subsequent blocking of efforts to rebuild them amounted to genocide, another member of the group said.  

We are not making this up….

“When the Pentagon talks about training the new Afghan National Army, it doesn't mean with its own soldiers. The Green Berets and other elite U. S. troops are needed elsewhere. Instead, the Defense Department is drawing up plans to use its commandos to jump-start the Afghan force, then hire private military contractors to finish the job.”

To read about the greater efficiency of privatised, outsourced war, go to this website